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Renters be aware, do research

Lisa Samstag, right, owner of a home for sale on Robinson Avenue, and her real estate agent, Brenda Goodman, uncovered a scam on Craigslist to rent the three-bedroom, one-bath home for $600 a month. The scammer wanted first month’s rent and security deposit wired to him.

Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.

Lisa Samstag, right, owner of a home for sale on Robinson Avenue, and her real estate agent, Brenda Goodman, uncovered a scam on Craigslist to rent the three-bedroom, one-bath home for $600 a month. The scammer wanted first month’s rent and security deposit wired to him.

KINGMAN – College-educated and working for the Mohave County Attorney’s Office, Lisa Samstag is not the easy prey most scammers on Craigslist are targeting.

Samstag broke up a scam to rent out her three-bedroom home on Robinson Avenue for $600 a month.

She’s concerned that prospective renters may fall into the rental scam, and wanted to get the word out that it’s happening.

Samstag said she and her husband listed the 1,230-square-foot home for sale in late June, asking $142,900. It’s an investment property to pay for their son’s education at Northern Arizona University, she said.

Within a week, she received a call from her real estate agent, Brenda Goodman of Realty Executives, notifying her that people are asking about renting the home. They had seen the ad on Craigslist.

“Six hundred dollars would be a fantastic price and the rental market is so hot, people are willing to do anything,” Samstag said. “They’ll wire money.”

Not disclosing her identity as the property owner, Samstag responded to the Craigslist advertisement and was sent an application for a rental home at a different address in Kingman.

The scammer, a man named Luis Perez, said he was taking a job out of town and needed money for the first month’s rent and security deposit wired to him before handing over the keys. Samstag said she’d send a money order, but Perez wouldn’t give his address. He wanted it done by texting.

“The problem is I think a lot of people would fall for it if they’re desperate to get a rental,” Samstag said. “It’s just a huge pot of gold he presented.”

She filed a report with Kingman Police Department, but that’s probably useless as the perpetrator must be caught in criminal activity.

“It’s really hard to catch these guys. We put a sign on the door to warn people,” she said.

Goodman contacted the Kingman-Golden Valley Association of Realtors, and a letter warning of the scam was sent to all members.

“I’ve heard of it happening in Phoenix and other states, but this is the first in Kingman,” Goodman said.

During the depths of the housing recession, when thousands of homes sat vacant as banks worked through foreclosures and short sales, “squatters” would break into homes, change the locks and live in them.

“You show up at the house and someone’s living there,” Goodman said. “You have to go through the eviction process. It’s costly. The police have to come. It’s a mess.”

Goodman said she got calls from Pittsburgh and San Francisco, as well as from a local renter who drove by the property and saw her sign. She said information on the home and two pictures of the bathroom were taken off listing sites such as Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow.

The ad was removed from Craiglist within about three days, Samstag noted.

Her advice to people looking to rent: Either rent from a reputable property management firm in Kingman or check the Mohave County web site to see who actually owns the property.